• Vero

In praise of the female entrepreneur

Today I would like to shine a light on female entrepreneurs/leaders.

Not because I do not believe male entrepreneurs are not to be praised. In fact, my ConnectARUK colleagues are always a fantastic and continuing source of inspiration to do more and to reach new goals.

However, we cannot help but notice that, in tech, for instance, only 16% of the UK workforce is composed of women. In the UK, there is a big tech gap, jobs waiting for talented people to grab them. The question is… why are there not more women able to fill these jobs?

Vinous Ali, Head of Policy, Skills, Innovation and Digital Strategy at techUK has something to say about this: “The sector is showing huge growth potential, driving the UK’s economy forward. As we create more jobs and more opportunities we need to make sure they are open to everyone. That is why techUK is committed to ensuring that as we grow the skills pipeline we ensure it is diverse and inclusive”.

What is more “techUK is committed to showing young women and girls the variety of roles open to them in our sector by highlighting role models and the multitude of ways to build a career in tech.”

Recent days I have had the pleasure of having conversations with many interesting female leaders. Many talked about education. They did not talk about the ‘lack of’ but instead about the many programmes and initiatives being run to help girls (and women) to find their way and enhance their careers. It is refreshing, inspiring and worth sharing.

That ‘little push’

Many of the leadership lessons I learned in work and life came from women. First, from my mum. She led by example, with resilience and positivity. Second, from my younger sister. After a first bad experience trying to learn how to drive many years ago, I gave up but she would not let me quit. She encouraged me (forced would have been a more accurate word) to take driving lessons again. I cannot explain how exhilarating it felt to be behind the wheel, feeling in charge, not depending on lifts! It may sound trivial, but many times we need that little push to make a big change in our lives.

Another ‘little’ moment was when a female boss of mine told me off for not totally grabbing an opportunity when she presented it to me: ‘I opened the door for you, don't go closing it yourself!’. The reason I cite these personal stories is that I want to take down the myth that women are always putting other women down.

An amazing example of women-helping-women is the work led by Pinky Lilani, a woman with so many hats that it would be difficult to try to describe all she does in this article. Pinky leads the Women of the Future programme and has launched a ‘Kindness Campaign’. ‘Kindness’ is not a word usually linked to business. You have to be bold, strong, assertive but not kind. However, in this programme, many leading women (also strong, bold and assertive), share their stories and leadership styles, and the effect they have on their organisation and industries.

Take another woman trying to do the ‘impossible’, Maria Laura Tinelli. Maria has been working hard and preaching about impact investment for many years. Her startup, Acrux Partners is a bridge for the development of investment opportunities in projects that seek a financial return and positively impact on society and the environment. She is trying to do something good but please do not misunderstand the premise: impact investment is also about a return, you still have to be business-savvy, we are talking about doing good whilst doing well. When asked about female entrepreneurship, instead of focusing on her own achievements she decided to talk about the next gen

“A lot is said, studied and praised at present about the role of millenials, into changing the world for good, and this is especially relevant for gender equality issues. However, not enough is said about the role of the generations that preceded them, raised them and paved their way, making it possible for them to have the opportunities they have now to defend -equality, individuality and freedom of choice- in every front in life. This is especially true for women and our centennial struggle for equal opportunities.

What worries me is that we are still sending a very contradictory message to kids, especially in developing countries. A home we might teach them that they need to fight for what they want, that they have a big role to play in the world, and that they can be anything they want if they set their hearts and minds to it, but the sad reality is that by age 5 (as published in 2018) a girl realises that her role in society is different than that of men, and that she has a lot fewer options than boys. Why the shift? Because the signal she gets is contradicted with what she has seen in real life every day since she was born: all carers and most home worker roles are female, most individuals that hold positions of power are men, ads say that, toys say that, music says that, clothes say that. The question is, how we make it so that both boys and girls can be who and what they want, breaking free from the stereotypes and set paths. I was raised in a very conservative school and at the same time by a very forward-thinking open-minded mother and grandmother. At school I was taught to be the perfect housewife. I am glad to say, I can barely cook, I can roughly iron, but I have created a company that kicks ass and that is changing the status quo day in and day out! for both men and women alike".

And talking about kick-ass ventures, Sofia Giampaoli is the founder of ‘Cell Farm/Granja Celular’, the first clean meat startup in LatAm. With a background in Chemical Engineering and Business & tech, Sofia had to fight her corner “I had to dedicate lots of time and determination, specially when nobody believed in my project. I think the only thing that keeps you going is that passion and determination to change things, to do something that is greater than yourself. That is the only motivation to face obstacles (and believe me there are many)!"

And how about our own ConnectARUK members?

Always ready to give a helping hand, our network is a constant source of help for those trying to make it in the startup world and women have certainly played an interesting role since ConnectARUK was conceived...

Victoria Olsina is an SEO expert. She volunteered to give a free-of-charge presentation to our members a while back and I could not help but notice that many attendees -all startup founders- were asking questions non-stop. Needless to say, it was a huge success as she managed to explain a very technical subject in a jargon-free, easy to understand way.

Mariana Lucia Marquez founded Metaspeech 4 years ago and the company has been in residence at Wayra UK's London office since 2016. She's responsible for transforming startup founders into confident speakers "Strategic storytelling that marries emotion and reason makes a pitch worth listening to... and when you add a confident delivery, you're unstoppable."

We all know how important confidence is in entrepreneurship when telling your story either to clients, investors.. the whole world! And in doing so, we should all remember what many interviewees have said in this article about being yourself, being kind and.. kick ass!

These are just a few nuggets of inspiration to kick start a conversation within the ConnectARUK network and hopefully beyond it. I hope these movements, programmes, and stories will inspire you as much as they have inspired me!

Vero (vero@connectaruk.com)

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